Today, we’ve launched digitalartsnation.ca, the website for Making Tomorrow Better: Taking Digital Action in the Performing Arts. This initiative received significant funding from the Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund in spring of 2019. The nation-wide partnership led by the Atlantic Presenters Association includes the Manitoba Arts Network, BC Touring Council, Island Mountain Arts/Northern Exposure, Yukon Arts Centre / N3 and the Yellowknife Arts & Cultural Centre.
Of note: most of the participants in the face-to-face workshops live on the edges of the country. therefore we tailor content to suit the realities, including slower internet connectivity, of rural and remote communities across Canada. Because what works there, will work in urban centres, too.
These workshops are designed to help participants speak digital with confidence – that is, we will demystify and discuss the digital realm in plain English – and quickly become competent participants in arts sector conversations about leading digital tools, emerging digital innovations, and new digital business models.
I hope that this assessment provides a springboard for new conversations and digital capacity in the presenting field.
The question at the core of this work is who will be the digital intermediaries for the performing arts; and whether the presenting field can carve out a digital space that supports and benefits the entire performing arts eco-system. Doing so, I think, would require both a transfer and an expansion of the arts presenting expertise we see on the theatre platform to new digital platforms.
Presenters historically have been the dominant platform where performing arts and audiences connect. The theatre, stage or the festival site literally act as a platform. With that, this report seeks to begin to answer – or at least inform – big questions:
Can live arts presenters re-invent distribution of performing arts at digital scale?
How will Canadian artistic talent be nurtured and supported to grow viable careers and earn fair compensation in the digital realm?
How can we, and should we, as a free, vibrant society assure a broad diversity of voices that reflect all of Canada is heard in digital spaces as well as live performance spaces?
What is the future of live Canadian theatre, dance, music and other performing arts as digital technologies and capacities of data networks continue to advance?
On a personal note, I so appreciate and enjoy working with my colleague-client, Frédéric Julien, Director of Research and Development at CAPACOA. He is a tireless advocate in the arts; and equal parts smart, rigorous in his thinking and affable. Thank you, Frédéric, for your work and your collaboration!
On Monday March 13, CAPACOA and Strategic Moves will facilitate an interactive web conversation on Digital Innovation in Performing Arts Presentation. Everyone is welcome to participate (10 am Pacific/1 pm Eastern).
At the CAPACOA conference in Halifax this past January, attendee feedback suggested that I made a compelling case for Breaking the Fifth Wall: Digitizing the Performing Arts. Indeed, attendees were buzzing with the challenges and opportunities presented. Others who have watched the presentation online have asked me how they can get involved. You can watch my talk here on video. In it, I weave together a case for sector-leadership and sector-ownership in developing a future digital platform. I am most excited about digitization beyond the 2-D screens we have today. In particular, I believe a future-oriented perspective requires us to contemplate live-streaming/streaming 3-D renderings; holographic and or virtual reality convergence in technologies. Things most of us have never seen but enabling technology solutions are advancing rapidly.
In this talk I offered a brief context of digital transformation in the last 20 years, an overview of experiments in digital performing arts presentation from around the world, a perspective on what it take to transform the challenging economic model that persists in live performing arts for the presenting field in particular, and a call to action.
At the upcoming CAPACOA national conference in Ottawa from November 25 to 28 I hope to turn that buzz into tangible action: Together with CAPACOA, we invite you talk about the next steps we as a sector want to take to drive this discussion forward and explore opportunities of digital distribution at scale in Canada and beyond. Can we establish a working group to spearhead conversations and build sector leadership on this central issue? Who wants to be and needs to get involved?